You Know You’re a Gringa When….

One of the many laundromats on Ometepe Island

I wrote this when we lived on Ometepe Island six years ago. Stay tuned for the latest version…You Know You’re Almost There When….

You Know You’re a Gringa When…

January 9, 2005

  • you don’t ask, “How much does it cost?”
  • you boil your water before you drink it.
  • you take a tab of Dramamine before you go grocery shopping in Rivas.
  • your refrigerator is full of grape jelly and peanut butter.
  •  you have a refrigerator
  • you throw away leftovers.
  • you wear white socks to the black sand beach.
  • you throw your toilet paper in the toilet.
  • you gather wood for a campfire and whittle sticks to roast marshmallows.   
  • you ask, “Where’s the dump?” or “When do they pick up my garbage?”
  • you tip toe around all the animal manure on the roads.
  • you wear underwear and a bra in the tropics.
  • your skin starts peeling from heavy applications of Deet.
  • squealing pigs disturb your sleep at 5 am.
  • the sight of an AK-47 scares you.
  • you inspect your bowel movements with a flashlight and binoculars for signs of worms.
  • you have a flashlight and binoculars.
  • you resort to reading an Awake magazine given to you by a Jehovah Witness tourist because it’s in English.
  • eating fish heads appall you.
  • you refuse to eat one more bite of greasy, tasteless gallo pinto.
  • you have spices in your kitchen and you actually use them.
  • you heat water to wash your dishes, your body, and your clothes,
    that is when you have running water.
  • you think hot water sanitizes and cleans everything.
  • you ask ridiculous questions like, “Where’s the water treatment plant?” or “Do you recycle plastic bags?”
  • it takes you all day to wash one pair of filthy, dirty socks.
  • you catch fish with a fishing pole…just for fun.
  • you have an electric fish finder.
  • you’re frustrated with daily power outages.
  • you ask, “Why don’t they do it this way?” “It would save a lot of time.”
  • you wear a wrist watch to bed.
  • you can’t understand why they eat green plantains.
  • you think flip-flops are only for the beach.
  • you think stability and accountability are synonymous with a government.
  • you think a pay-off is your last mortgage payment.
  • you think you need a prescription for drugs.
  • you wonder if OSHA regulates the kitchens of the street vendors and USDA inspects the fly infested meat hanging in the market stalls.
  • you miss the weather report. Hot and sunny or hot and rainy isn’t very interesting.
  • it’s Sunday and all you want to do is read a big, fat Sunday newspaper at the Waffle House.
  • you wonder, “Where’s my mailbox?”
  • you ask directions in Managua expecting street names and numbers.
  • you use words like, ‘text me’ and ‘IM’ me.
  • you ask weather related questions like, “When is the wind going to stop?” or “When is the rain going to stop?”
  • you think a machete is used for only hacking coconuts.
  • you’re amused at what’s written on the Goodwill t-shirts because you’re the only one that can read them.
  • you miss your dishwasher, high-speed internet, lawnmower, and washing machine more than your family.
  • you spend $1,000 to have your dog’s leg mended in the states and you don’t give it a second thought.
  • you consider your dog to be a member of your family.
  • you ask, “What do you mean by gringo prices?”
  • you wonder if there is an emergency broadcasting system for a hurricane or the eruption of Vulcan Concepcion.
  • you wonder what happens if you dial 9-1-1.
  • you ask your neighbor, “Where is your smoke detector?”
  • you are the only house in the neighborhood with guidebooks and maps of Nicaragua plastered all over your walls.
  • you’ve never been stung by a scorpion or experienced a numb tongue as a result.
  • you think a gusano is a very pretty, defenseless caterpillar.
  • you’re enchanted by the beauty, yet at the same time disgusted by the litter.
  • you think the word ‘adios’ means goodbye.
  • you are surprised by how many people one bicycle can carry and dumbfounded at the sight of a woman nursing her baby while sitting on the steel carrier at the rear of the bike.
  • you’ve missed the last bus home, it’s dark, and you’re afraid to ride in the back of an old pick-up truck because you might get dirty.
  • a pig runs through the middle of a high school graduation ceremony and you wonder why no one laughs.
  • two bony dogs are copulating in the middle of Main Street and you wonder why no one notices.
  • your family wants to know what to send you for Christmas, and you ask for mouse traps, a squeegee mop, and books…any kind of books as long as they’re in English.
  • you tell Nicaraguans. “I am an American.”
  • you pinch your nose shut at the toxic smell of burning plastic.
  • you think the laundromat is actually a building with washing machines and dryers.
  • you find yourself buying things because they are so cheap, not because you need them.
  • you have no understanding of ‘crimes of opportunity’.
  • you have a garden because you like green vegetables and you eat lettuce with your salad.
  • you’ve never seen a skinny pig before.
  • you wonder why they call the old school buses ‘chicken buses’ and think they take the kids to school.
  • you thought a traffic jam consisted of cars, not a herd of cattle with forked sticks protruding from their necks, sixteen piglets chasing swaying titties, horses, or scavenging dogs.
  • you teach the old begging woman in front of Pali grocery store how to pronounce, “I nee moonies”, correctly instead of giving her a few cordobas.
  • the repetitive thumping thing they call music is too loud and annoying.
  • you thought fireworks were only for the Fourth of July and the deafening explosions were always accompanied by twinkling, colored lights.
  • you use candles as a decorative, romantic touch in your house.
  • you think every Nicaraguan hated Somoza’s 46 year reign of terror.
  • you think the word ‘petroglyph’ is the Spanish name for gasoline.
  • you think Papayas are expensive, small fruits.
  • you miss the Superbowl and Sunday football games on TV.
  • you laugh at their silly superstitions, and make fun of the monkey ladies, duendes, and the Chupa Cabra.
  • you pity the islanders for enduring poverty, destitution, earthquakes, and war.
  • you think there is hopelessness in their lives.
  • you isolate yourself from their culture.
  • you refuse to speak their language.
  • you think everyone should learn to speak English.
  • you think the American way is the answer to everything.
  • you surround yourself with other gringos because it is familiar and comforting.
  • you buy all their land and post no trespassing signs along the borders.
  • you perpetuate the fallacy that all gringos are rich.
  • You know you are really a gringa when…
    you assume …anything
    you take for granted….everything
    and you learn nothing about yourself after living on a primitive island in the middle of a huge lake, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America.

2 thoughts on “You Know You’re a Gringa When….

  1. I am most definatly a gringa. I am guilty of some of the listed items above, others had me laughing to stitches. the last few howerever, were just sad. I have to say that while I did not come out of my experience in Peru a completely changed woman, I grew a lot in a very short time. I learned to appreciate, I learned to give more, and I learned to NOT take anything for granted. I learned more there in three months then I learned anywhere else thus far in my life. i only hope that in some small way I returned the favor.

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